Aztlán to Magulandia: The Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert "Magu" Luján

University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine

One of the founding members of the Chicano artists collective Los Four, Gilbert "Magu" Luján is known for his coloration and visual explorations of Chicano culture and community that drew upon and brought to life various historic and contemporary visual sources with startling results: Pyramid-mounted low riders driven by anthropomorphic dogs traversing a newly defined and mythologized L.A. He was part of a small group of dedicated artists and intellectuals who set about defining a Chicano identity and culture as part of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

The drawing "Las Kachinas y la Babe", depicts a suburban neighborhood subverted and re-imagined with Mesoamerican architecture, glyphs and lowriders.

Cars bear major symbolic significance throughout Luján's body of work, among many things they represent culture, ingenuity, and the unique resourcefulness of Chicano culture.

The complexity of this untitled drawing by Luján suggests both a hyper-sexualization of the female form, while also imbuing the female subject with a confrontational gaze.

Luján spent a decade planning and executing Hooray for Hollywood, an ambitious public-art installation commissioned by the Los Angeles Metro. This untitled drawing is a study for the project.

Detailed sketch of a stick dog sculpture proposed for a public art project. Throughout his life, Luján produced several important public art projects.

The glyphs floating from the female subject's mouth, coupled with her Mesoamerican headdress, suggest a fluid conversation with ancient traditions.

Antepasados (the Spanish translation for ancestors) are important recurrent figures in Luján's work. They are depicted inhabiting the present as a link to the past communicating wisdom and heritage.

Lujan's conception of Aztlan ran counter to essentialist notions that foreclosed upon the evolution of Chicano identity. His take on Aztlan welcomed constant change and defied a fixed definition.

This untitled drawing from 1996 is one of many studies by Lujan for "Hooray Hollywood", an ambitious public art work funded by The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Several drawings by Luján include cartographic elements, resembling way-finding maps of the Americas, Aztlan, or of Magulandia itself.

Chicano Studies scholar Karen Mary Davalos' contribution to the discourse on Lujan's work has linked his reorientation of maps to postcolonial discourse that reimagines the Americas.

In the aptly titled "Aztec to High Tech", Luján combines symbolic Mesoamerican architecture with iconic symbols of Magulandia, producing a radical cartography that collapses realities and cultures,

The bright and bold colors used by Luján in his sculptures and paintings are a direct signifier of the accessible, everyday materials used to create his work.

In many of Luján's portrait drawings, some part of a subject's life often became an extension of their physical self. In "La Wavey", a woman's hair takes on the form of an ocean wave.

In "New York On My Mind", Luján integrates the city into his subject's body.

According to curator Hal Glicksman,"Anthropomorphism partly came to Luján’s work through a humorous narrative of art that developed on the West Coast in the early 1960s, especially in San Francisco."

In this untitled drawing by Luján from 1987, the design on the subject's face symbolizes pre-colonial lineage while the teardrop underneath its left eye signifies an identity unique to the barrio.

Studies for a Santa Monica mural project, one of many public arts proposals that Luján developed throughout his career.

Luján was a keen observer of relationships between men and women, often depicting the challenges of communication in between.

Scholar Karen Mary Davalos' contribution to the discourse on Lujan's work proposes that his usage of graticules grant empirical and cultural authority to his reimagining of Aztlan.

In this untitled drawing from 1981, Luján incorporates multiple elements of a unique symbolic system that collapsed time, nationalities, borders and social distinctions.

Produced in the late 1970s, this drawing by Luján counters the dominant minimalist and non-representational artistic movements that defined the era.

A comic strip produced by Luján published in an issue of KPOH Radio, a recurring insert in the University of California, Irvine campus newsletter.

Luján repurposed an end roll of paper (sourced by Mardi Luján from her job at the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company) to collect his thoughts on Chicano art and the Pocho concept.

Luján's conception of Magulandia counters Spanish California narratives. It is characterized by Mesoamerican architecture and iconographies and defies linear time altogether.

A core concept of Magulandia was unity and inclusiveness, a concept resonant in this drawing wherein a highly stylized "carrito", anthropomorphic animals, and a human figure moving in unison.

Although Luján became a well known artist, he eschewed the thought of being a celebrity. In this self portrait, the artist's body is replaced with a jaguar's, a solitary feline native to the Americas.

This hand-drawn sign for Luján's studio includes a list of services provided by the artist for visitors to his studio in Pomona, California.

Portrait of Hal Glicksman, curator of the first Los Four exhibition and life-long friend of Luján. They met when Luján was a grad student at Irvine and Glicksman was University Art Gallery Director.

In this untitled drawing circa 1995 includes multiple symbols, anthropomorphic figures and concepts that made Luján's conception of the inclusive Magulandia so rich.

In this untitled drawing from the "Couples" series, Luján illustrates a glyph emanating from the male figures' mouth, signifying a passionate speech that resists translation.

The sculpture "Having a Car Baby", combines two subjects that provided life long fascination for Luján: women and cars.

Flyer produced by the University of California Irvine announcing the first Los Four exhibition, curated by Hal Glicksman.

List of scheduled exhibitions calendared to take place at the University of Irvine University Art Gallery during the same year in which the first "Los Four" exhibition.

Announcement of Hal Glicksman's hire as Curator of UC Irvine's Art Gallery. Glicksman curated the first Los Four exhibition at UCI and jn 2017, co-curated the first major survey of Luján's work.

Produced between 1968 - 71, "Con Safos: Reflections of Life in the Barrio" was the first magazine of its kind produced by Chicano artists and writers. Luján served as art editor from 1969-1971.

Nahuatl speech glyphs play a prominent role in Luján's work. They not only facilitate speech and communication, but establish and normalize a counter form of signification.

In this self portrait, the artist places himself firmly in an alternate map informed by the elements of Magulandia.

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